Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar must come clean on whether she authorised the use of a post on her Facebook page from British politician Sir Keir Starmer as her own last Saturday, after Joe Biden was confirmed as the 46th President of the United States. Starmer, incidentally, is the leader of the Labour Party and the opposition in Britain.
What is even more shameful about the incident, is the fact that President-elect Biden visited Trinidad and Tobago in May 2013 along with his wife Jill, when Persad-Bissessar was Prime minister. What better starting point could Persad-Bissessar have needed for her congratulatory message?
It is unlikely that the US President-elect will be making a trip to this country anytime soon. But the fact is that Persad-Bissessar had the edge in saying that under her watch the then US Vice-President visited Trinidad and Tobago and our relations since then have remained good.
It is incomprehensible that someone who served as prime minister of this country could have been so disinterested in the congratulatory message that she would have allowed someone to post it to her Facebook page without even vetting it. This, of course, is giving her the benefit of the doubt, since her silence since renders it impossible to know what exactly happened.
Yesterday, Guardian Media learnt that it was a relative of Mrs Persad-Bissessar, who is not part of her communications team, who was responsible for posting the plagiarised message. In the irony of ironies, however, the communications team publicly accepted responsibility for the error.
It is disheartening that the opposition leader has not seen it fit to address this matter head-on, given that she once served as prime minister and aspires to lead the country again.
Furthermore, Mrs Persad-Bissessar also plans to contest the leadership of the United National Congress in December.
The post has since been removed but the damage has been done. How Mrs Persad-Bisessar addresses this shameful act is anyone’s guess. For now, however, it seems a glaring act of laziness and lack of interest.
Vasant Bharath, who also aspires to be leader of the UNC, described the act of plagiarism as “a despicable act of dishonesty. It is stealing someone else’s idea, labour and sweat and calling it your own.”
That is more than food for thought for the Opposition leader, who is a lawyer. Mrs Persad-Bissessar needs to set the bar high. In this instance, she went low. We hope, however, that this is an issue which she prioritises with some urgency. Two days have gone. Persad-Bissessar should not let the country wait a third day before she does the right thing and writes a letter of apology to the British politician whose message was posted as her own. Removing it from the Facebook page is not good enough. This country also deserves an explanation and an apology for what has happened.